Pay-per-click advertising can be one of the fastest ways to drive new traffic to your website. For companies looking at breaking into new markets, it can be a low-risk, cost-effective way to get started.

However, many businesses are failing to realise its full potential, especially in other languages.

As more of the world gets online, many e-commerce companies are starting to look further looking further afield with their digital marketing. Internet use may be reaching saturation point in much of Europe and North America, but it is soaring in other parts of the world. McKinsey reported this month that e-commerce is booming in Brazil, with the majority of the country now having internet access.

The latest figures from ComScore show that Venezuela, India,  and Indonesia saw the highest growth in internet use this year, with Italy in fourth place.

Only around a quarter of the online population speaks English, and this proportion is falling. Companies targeting foreign language markets have a competitive advantage, since there is still relatively less content in other languages.

Also, running a PPC campaign in Portuguese or Japanese is usually cheaper than in English, due to the lack of competition.

PPC is also cost-effective compared to more traditional forms of advertising. A survey by Practical Ecommerce found that 87.5% of respondents used it to increase web traffic, and said it was good value for money.

Other studies have found that many companies are missing out on its full benefits. Recent research by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) found two-thirds of international companies lacked an effective PPC strategy.

For global businesses looking to increase their performance in a short timeframe, a PPC campaign should be an essential part of a marketing strategy. It’s a quick way to climb the search engine rankings, build brand awareness and drive more traffic to your website.

Of course the secrets of success include effective planning, and monitoring and evaluating campaigns. Here are five steps to getting started.

Choose your keywords 

If you already have international sites optimised for your main keywords, then this is a good start. If not, then there are plenty of tools, such as Google’s free Keyword Tool and Global Market Finder, that can identify keywords and levels of competition.

These won’t necessarily be direct translations of English keywords. It’s best to check with a native speaker, to ensure they match what they are likely to search for. 

For example, many German searchers will use English keywords for technical terms, instead of the correct German equivalent.

Know your search engines

Although Google is the market leader in most countries, this isn’t the case everywhere.  If you’re targeting China, then Baidu is by far the most popular, while Yandex is the favourite in Russia. There are many other local competitors, including Naver in South Korea. And niche search engines could be a good choice for certain markets.

It’s worth getting to know some of the quirks of different search engines. Each one will have slightly different rules for PPC, such as whether you are penalised for irrelevant keyword use.

Compared to Google, Baidu has fewer sophisticated tools, and getting relevant click-throughs can be challenging. But it doesn’t limit paid search results to only three above the natural search results. Yandex’s multi-tier bidding strategy makes it easy to bid for first, second or third place positions, depending on your budget. 

Capture users’ attention

With PPC advertising, you have only a small number of words to intrigue a potential buyer and push them to clicking on your advert. There’s no room for clunky translations or poorly worded text – hiring a native speaking translator or copywriter is essential.

They can make sure the text strikes the right tone with readers, is culturally appropriate, and avoids causing confusion or offence.

Close the sale

This is the make-or-break point: the last thing you want is to pay for lots of click-throughs, but turn off users when they reach your site. Creating a great landing page, with information in a user’s native language, is vital.

It’s worth remembering that more and more people are browsing on their mobile phones, especially in certain markets, such as Japan and India. Making sure that your site is mobile friendly will avoid losing customers.

Make it as easy as possible for users to make a purchase.  Research by the European Commission found that most people were reluctant to buy if prices weren’t in their local currency.  Preferences in payment methods can also vary across cultures.

A little research will find out whether people are more likely to use credit cards, bank transfers, PayPal (or all three). Include contact details for any customer service queries. If you don’t have on-the-ground sales staff, then it’s best to restrict these to email or online forms, rather than expensive international calls. 

Measure and monitor

PPC marketing can take time to get right, and it’s essential to monitor and evaluate the success of your campaigns. Checking click-through rates and visitor behaviour will give you valuable information about the effectiveness of your strategy.

This data can be used to tweak the campaigns, for example by changing keywords or targeting specific cities or geographic regions. It’s also vital to monitor your competitors to ensure you stay one step ahead.

If you’re juggling campaigns across multiple countries and search engines, then bid management tools are an effective way to analyse and track the results.